No other Slam brings the nostalgia quite like Wimbledon. Whether it’s the grass courts, the white attire, or the just the classic matches, something about it inspires reminiscence. Even the equipment used in big matches seems to gain in importance. For anyone who remembers, it’s impossible to think of Bjorn Borg’s run to five straight titles without recalling his trademark Donnay Allwood.
While times have changed, and you won’t see any pros using a Donnay come championship Sunday, the company is back producing quality frames. A few years ago when I heard Donnay was making a comeback I demoed one of their newer offerings, the Black 94. The ultra thin profile had my opponent cracking that I was swinging a flyswatter. However, the frame was remarkably sturdy and comfortable. Had I been serious about switching racquets at the time, it would have been a serious contender.
This year’s models don’t include the Black, but there are updates to the classic Pro One line. There are three different versions including the Midplus, which our tester, and Donnay aficionado, Mark Avedikian tried out. Here’s his assessment:
Mark Avedikian: Donnay’s 2014 line is out with some updates to their bestselling frames. The racquets are now Xenecore frames by Donnay, which tells me that Xenecore is making a bigger push to get into more areas of the sporting goods and mainstream manufacturing market with their material that is already used in the military for sound proofing and shock dampening. Xenecore is known for its strength to weight ratio as well, and is used in aircraft wings, nosecones, helmets, and vests.
Safety studies have been done comparing the effects on the body of dual-core Xenecore frames versus hollow or foam-filled racquets; the findings have been quite promising. (Click here and here to read two of them). Besides that, I have always been a fan of the Donnay brand as it brings back memories of watching Bjorn Borg as a child, and later the flash of Andre Agassi with his colorful Pro One frame. When Donnay came out with their original Xenecore frames I was impressed with their arm-friendly qualities as well as the super thin beam that is still carried forward with the 2014 version of the Gold and Silver 99’s.
The Pro One Midplus that I tested has a slightly larger, 102 sq. in. head, and a thicker 21mm beam width. It’s also standard length and checks in with a strung weight of 11.1 oz. The flex occupies that nice feel of being soft enough to be old-school, but just firm enough for some added pop to get you out of trouble when on defense. I noticed that this new version has a livelier feel to the previous extended version which felt very muted—dare I say dead—so this was a welcomed improvement.
The frame also moved through the air a bit quicker than previous Pro One models. It made me wish that the frame was even a bit a more headlight to tame some of the power in the sweet spot, as I felt there was a hot spot that produced a few fliers. If I stuck with the frame I’d have to experiment with string and tension to tame the problem. (I strung this frame at 48lbs with a Donnay co-poly, then later at 55 lbs with Monogut ZX.) Donnay also has weighted butt caps that you can use to change the balance of the racquet. This could be why the company has gone to less head-light balances for their frames, and leaving it up to users to customize to their liking.
To go along with that power, the 16×19 string pattern on the Pro One produces decent spin, but it will not generate it for you. Better players will not have any issues producing heavy topspin or tight slice when needed, but it’s something to consider if you’re lacking in that department.
If ground strokes were unsteady at times, serving as well as volleying with this frame were great. The plush feel led to great control and touch on volleys, while there was enough mass to handle hard-hit passes. And the extra power that caused a few erratic groundies was a welcome addition to my serves. I could really serve bombs and felt like this is one area where the racquet shined.
All in all, the Pro One is a very solid update. It should appeal to all-courters who like a little extra pop without a lot of weight, especially those with arm issues.